The Oswego State women’s tennis team entered this season with hopes of competing well against SUNYAC opponents. With a full roster of 13 players that included experienced veterans and talented new players, this season was all set for history to be made.
After starting off the season 3-6, 0-2 in conference play. The Lakers picked up their first conference win in almost five years with a 8-1 win over SUNY Fredonia on Saturday, Sept. 27.
Head coach Erin Skaradek shared how she felt the girls reacted to earning the impressive win.
“The girls we’re psyched, they know what that win meant,” Skaradek said. “It’s huge to go on the road and get a nice win. We played very well out there. We played the way we’re capable of playing and it was all around a great team win.”
The win over the Blue Devils also secured the Lakers’ spot as the No. 3 seed in the west division going into the SUNYAC playoffs. Skaradek knew how important this was to the team compared to what position the team has had going into the playoffs in past years.
“If you look at the past three years we’ve done in SUNYAC play, we’ve gotten the four seed, we play the No. 1 seed, which is typically New Paltz every year,” Skaradek said. “That’s a tough match to play in your first match at SUNYACs.”
Instead Oswego State played SUNY Cortland, the second seed in the east division, in the first round of the SUNYAC playoffs on Friday, Oct. 10, with the whole tournament taking place in Binghamton, N.Y. The Lakers lost the match, 5-0. Though it was not the result the team wanted, it did set up Oswego State to take on SUNY Plattsburgh, the No. 4 seed in the west division, in a consolation match the next day.
The Lakers went up to the North Country to take on SUNY Plattsburgh at its home courts on Oct. 4 before the SUNYAC playoffs started and lost, 5-4. This was a tough match to lose as senior captain Lauren Stall was not in the lineup. Skaradek knew how much of an impact it would be to not have the No. 1 singles player.
“In term of singles, that bumps everyone up a spot, so essentially everyone is playing out of position in that matter,” Skaradek said. “It was definitely tough.”
Though losing the only match of the season against them, Skaradek was confident in her team going into the playoff matchup with its full lineup this time.
“With our performance the first time around, there was no doubt in my mind once we had our complete lineup that we were going to beat them,” Skaradek said. “I said to the girls, ‘We don’t have anything to lose, they have everything to lose. They’ve beaten us once, now they got to try and beat us again.’”
The Lakers defeated the Cardinals, 5-3. Senior Haley Miller won her singles match at fourth singles (6-3, 3-6, 6-4). Miller was very pleased the Lakers earned the victory.
“I thought it was really exciting and that we had something to prove as a team, because last year and the first time we played them this season, we didn’t win obviously,” Miller said. “But I thought we were definitely capable of winning. We proved it to not only to them but ourselves.”
Stall, who won both her first singles match and first doubles match, talked about the turnaround from not having the best success in the past against SUNY Plattsburgh, not being able to play against them in their regular season matchup and to going out and taking them down in the playoffs.
“Last year we played them, and it was not a good loss at all,” Stall said. “We did not play very well in general and I think even with me not being there we were only a point away from winning, this year, so that just shows we could win. Since we were so close we were able to go into SUNYAC, thinking we could win. We had the mindset knowing we could win, and being able to put that effort forward and not giving up, that was one of the really big things.”
It was overall a great performance by the three seniors starting in the match. Skaradek gave credit to assistant coach Geoffrey Sawyer for helping Miller win her match from the mental standpoint. Stall won her match after losing the first set, 6-3. She came back to win the second and third set, (6-2, 6-1). Senior Marie Halpin’s match was suspended due to the Lakers securing the match win with Halpin up (7-5, 5-2).
Halpin joined the team last spring in her junior year and quickly became a big factor this fall, starting in all of the Lakers’ matches at singles this season. Halpin spoke about the experience she had with the tennis team and what she took away from it.
“I was very nervous in the beginning, but I had a lot of support from my team coming in basically my senior year. It felt really good and I was actually proud of myself,” Halpin said. “But it made me realize that I wish I joined sooner. But it was a good way to end my college career.”
Along with Stall, Miller and Halpin, there is also senior Olivia Knierman, who played in five doubles matches this season, and has been playing for the team since her freshman year. A third-year student graduating early in May, Kelsey Wilson, played in 12 of the Lakers’ 14 matches at singles this year.
Skaradek was very proud of all of the graduating players as a whole and what they have meant to the program.
“They are a great group to work with,” Skaradek said. “They bring a lot of enthusiasm, they are a great group to be around, they work very hard, they push each other. I know I can count on them. They know my structure; they know my coaching philosophy. They do the right things and I think they set the way for our younger kids. They know what’s expected and I think there is no doubt that these seniors want to leave some success behind. They want to see the players coming up to have the same success as we did this year in future years.”
All of the seniors will be missing the great times they had with the tennis team here at Oswego State. Stall mentioned what will be one of the things she will miss most about being on this team.
“Just being with all the girls. They all became my best friends; that’s what I think is cool about being on a sports team is that is how you make your friends,” Stall said. “SUNYACs has been my favorite part of each year because that brings us all really close.”
The entire team can be very proud of how it came together at the SUNYAC Championships and brought success this season to a program that has not seen that kind of success in quite some time.
“This season in general was the best season we ever had. With our teammates all getting along in general and just our performance,” Stall said. “Even though we didn’t win as many matches, we were extremely close, and sometimes the score doesn’t show everything, just like in a lot of sports. We definitely performed very, very well in pretty much every match that we had.”
The Lakers finished the season with a 5-9 record. They will be back on the courts for their non-regular season in the spring. Their first match is at home om March 27 against Elmira College.